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Bringing Dog Services to Your Door

A growing number of pet professionals are making house calls.

by Julia Lane, CPDT-KA
June 25, 2012
A woman with shoulder length hair wearing a white sweater and black leggings sitting on the floor in front of her couch next to a black dog with white spots while looking at her phone
Anna Berkut / Stocksy

Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)

Most of us are accustomed to taking our dogs for services or handling routine maintenance tasks ourselves. But increasingly, daunting medical needs, complicated schedules, and the pandemic are creating a demand for a more retro approach: house calls. Using mobile pet services guarantees a relaxed, familiar environment that is less disorienting and stressful for pets.

Pet parents are also much happier with this type of personalized service. Like their dogs, people also experience increased stress associated with taking their pets to appointments. Taking the car ride, waiting-room delays, and steel exam tables out of the equation is a great relief. Additionally, mobile pet services make it possible for pet parents to evaluate the services on a more intimate basis than possible with a regular in-person visit, resulting in a higher degree of trust and comfort when it comes to caring for and treating their pets.

In-Home Vet Care Services

While in-home pet services are more popular than ever, that hasn’t always been the case. Small-animal veterinarian Christine Foster had to wrestle with the state of Virginia when she first proposed her mobile veterinary service. As part of a traditional veterinary practice, she recognized that it was a struggle for many pet parents to come to the office. Elderly clients could not drive, parents of small children found it difficult to get everyone in the car for a trip to the vet, and people who owned multiple pets had to make multiple visits. Also, when it came to euthanasia, many people balked at bringing their beloved companion into a sterile office and sharing such a personal event with a lobby full of strangers.

Foster has also noticed that some people are more comfortable talking to her in their homes than in an exam room. With in-home vet care, pet parents share stories, and sometimes the details clue her into things that are affecting the animal. “Seeing puppies in their new homes is a perfect example of being able to really help a client get a good start,” says Foster. “For example, people tend to over- or underestimate the size of the crate they need for their dog. Usually, it’s too big to be a good housebreaking tool or too small for an adult dog to be comfortable in for any length of time. With their dog right there, I can show them how to size the crate better. I can also see the placement of the crate and help them learn how to use it as a positive place by making it the dog’s ‘den,’ a happy and secure place to go, and not a punishment.”

Whether the issue is simple old age or a chronic, debilitating problem, an at-home veterinary evaluation and consult can make it possible for a dog to continue to live comfortably at home. “Sometimes, people are sure it’s time to let their dog go, but in many cases, I am able to alleviate their worries and help them find ways to keep their dogs with them longer than they thought was possible,” says veterinarian Melissa Shapiro. “As dogs and cats transition into the final phase of their lives, in-home visits coupled with pain-management therapies, changes in treatment protocols and environmental accommodations (ramps, carpeting on slippery floors, support harnesses and slings) can make all the difference.”

Mobile Pet Grooming Services

In the high-maintenance world of canine conformation and performance sports, it’s not unusual for owners to hire in-home pet professionals. But a dog doesn’t have to be a beribboned winner to inspire special treatment.

Nail trimming or buffing is just one of the popular services offered by Beverly Hills groomer Steve Ogden, who owns The Spa Dog, a mobile pet grooming service. He says that people who are stressed about cutting their dog’s nails inadvertently create stress in the dog, too, making for an unpleasant experience all around. He helps the client’s dog relax in the grooming truck, then methodically trims one nail at a time, offering a treat in exchange for each successful trim.

“I’m more about the relationship with the dog and the relationship with the client,” says Ogden, “Your energy has to be centered — LA is stressful. If you’re calm and centered and focused on what you’re doing, the dog will calm down.” Typically “Hollywood,” some dogs put on an Oscar-quality performance when their people are present, but as soon as they get into the grooming truck, they’re ready for hair and makeup, so to speak.

His client roster reads like a page out of People magazine: Christina Aguilera, Nicole Richie, and Jaclyn Smith, among others. But Ogden says you don’t have to be a celebrity to use his services. He believes groomers are the first line of defense in preventative health care. Many times, people are not aware of their dog’s hot spot or a foxtail between their pads until Ogden points it out. He says clients appreciate having help in watching out for their pet.

Mobile Massages & Reiki

Mobile animal masseuse Kerran Ascoli also addresses pets’ physical and mental quality of life. When she began studying massage and Reiki energy healing, she practiced on her rescue dog, a Shepherd/Chow mix named Cocoa. Massage and Reiki have been especially helpful in keeping her pups in balance.

Ascoli started her mobile massage service because she finds that animals are more comfortable in their own surroundings. Instead of using a massage table, she encourages the dog to relax on the floor. If the pet prefers to stand rather than lie down, she will accommodate that.

Scooby, a 13-year-old Golden Retriever with hip dysplasia and arthritis, is one of her regular clients. Unlike those who think canine massage is frivolous, Scooby’s owner recognizes that Ascoli’s work has all the benefits of human massage. “I see him once a week. Now he can walk better, he’s less stiff, and it’s a better quality of life for him,” said Ascoli.

Hiring Pooper Scoopers

While most people think of a pooper-scooper service as a convenience, Dirty Work owner Cara Brown of Atlanta says she and her staff have also alerted clients to their dog’s need for medical attention. “A few years ago, we found fresh blood in a dog’s stool,” says Brown. “Blood is one of those things you don’t mess around with. The client took the dog to the vet right away. Luckily, it was just some sort of tear in the lining of the intestines. But they may not have known about it if we hadn’t come over.” On other visits, Brown and her staff have been told that the dog has swallowed something — anything from a diamond ring to money — and asked to keep an eye out to make sure it passes.

As one who lives with three rescued mixed breeds, Brown understands that her employees bond with her clients and their dogs. In order to facilitate that relationship, each scooper has a regular client roster. Dirty Work attends to residential and commercial properties, including assisted-living facilities where elderly owners can’t pick up after their dogs. Most clients receive weekly visits, although occasionally, some request more frequent service.

Mobile Pet Services Are There When You Need Them

Opening your home to a pet professional can be difficult, as they see both you and your pets at your most personal. But in addition to providing a convenient product or service, they tend to bond with the family and can provide much-needed emotional and social support.

“It is about trust,” says Ogden. “People and their dogs have a very intimate relationship, and I’m right in the middle of it.” The complications of modern life help us appreciate the simplicity of canine companionship. Our pets are always there for us, whether we come home late from work or are distracted by other responsibilities. An in-home pet professional can afford us more quality time with our cherished pets and in some cases, provide that extra care and attention that our pets so generously share with us.

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Julia Lane, CPDT-KA

Julia Lane owns Spot On K9 Sports, a training facility in the Chicago area, and offers online dog-sport coaching. She is the author of several travel books, and her byline has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Poets & Writers and elsewhere.